Fears Junee at risk of heightened crime amid jail expansion

FULL OF FEAR: Former Liberal senator Bill Heffernan is concerned Junee jail's expansion will bring organised criminals to the town. Picture: Les Smith

FULL OF FEAR: Former Liberal senator Bill Heffernan is concerned Junee jail's expansion will bring organised criminals to the town. Picture: Les Smith

THE INCREASE of Junee’s prison population from 875 to 1355 will expose the region to an influx of organised criminals, according to a former Liberal senator. 

Controversial Junee ex-councillor Bill Heffernan – who originally negotiated the purchase of the jail’s land – believes the expansion will have severe societal repercussions on the town. 

“We already have a problem with paedophiles being released from the prison and staying in Junee,” he said.

“Soon we will have more organised criminals visiting and moving to Junee to see those they know inside.

"In my view, the estimated cost of the refurbishment of the sewerage system due to the ever increasing load could sit between $10 and $12 million by the time it is complete.

“Something always goes wrong.”

He has called for the Junee Correctional Centre (JCC) project to be brought to an immediate halt while council scrambles to gather the required funds. 

“I think the council have made a serious error in judgement only asking for a portion of funding when they probably should have asked for more,” Mr Heffernan said.

A timeline currently set for the expansion will see it completed in June, 2018. 

Mayor Neil Smith said the short scope placed significant strain on the council. 

“Council was looking at what it might need to do to expand the works in three-to-five years and that would have allowed council to go through a proper design and tender process,” he said.

“Because of the short time frame, with JCC wanting to open to 450 inmates by June next year, we've had to rush the whole process and it's going to be more costly than otherwise.”

However, Cr Smith said the JCC is a significant asset to the town. 

“They donate over $100,000 a year to local and regional charities and festivals,” he said.

A GEO spokesman said the company injected more than $30 million into the community each year through salaries and its “buy local” policy.

Cootamundra MP Katrina Hodgkinson also highlighted the economic benefits of the expansion. 

“The $220 million prison expansion will create up to 300 new jobs during construction and another 130 after it’s built,” she said in a letter to the editor. 

“That equates to 22 years' growth for Junee.”

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